An introvert’s guide to interning abroad

Though it may seem like extroverts would have an easier time abroad, granted the experience requires a great deal of interaction with strangers, introverts actually bring quite a lot to the table when it comes to making the most of international experiences. Oftentimes introverts are experts in active listening and can be more sensitive to and aware of their surroundings. Even though being thrown into a new cultural context can be overwhelming, introverts can use their intuition and logic to solve problems and make thoughtful decisions during an international internship program.

 

Take a leap of faith

There are times in our lives when we have to do things that make us uncomfortable. Usually when we just bite the bullet and go for it, we realize that the thing we were so nervous about doing didn’t really warrant so much excitement and fear. Choose to trust in your intelligence and ability to solve problems over your anxiety about meeting new people. Realize that by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re preparing yourself to take on bigger challenges in the future. It’s easier said than done, so that’s why you just have to take a leap of faith and tell yourself, “I’m going to do this and I will succeed”.

 

 

Prepare yourself

Walking into unknown territory can be terrifying. That’s why it’s better to think about what you’re embarking upon before the last minute. Think about the people you’ll meet and talk to, what you’ll talk to about, where you’ll go and what kind of interactions you might encounter. Not in a way that’s obsessive or nervous, but as a way to prepare for lots of different social interactions. When you meet interns, think about what kind of questions to ask them. Where they are they from and why did they decide to go abroad? If you think things through beforehand, you’ll come to potentially overwhelming experiences prepared and calm.

 

One colleague at a time

Obviously, your first day at your internship abroad is going to be intense. Yes, you’re going to be hopelessly forced into making a ton of introductions, engage in small talk with lots of people all while trying to remember names and make a good impression. But after that, making friends at work is up to you. That can be a daunting task for anyone, especially introverts who have to push themselves a little bit harder to have the wherewithal to really go for it. So the trick is to have a game plan. Try to slowly establish relationships one colleague at a time, starting with the people you work most directly with. Each week pick a different colleague to get to know better and make an effort to approach them at some point in the week, invite them to a lunch or coffee, or at least establish a conversation and something in common.

 

Carve alone time into your lifestyle abroad

Whether it’s buying yourself a ticket to go see a movie alone, taking a solo walk in the park every day or picking a couple of nights to stay in each week, let yourself spend time alone when you really need it. While you should be trying to take advantage of all the time you’ll have in a foreign country, you won’t enjoy your time as much if you’re feeling over-stimulated and tired.

 

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Travel with an extrovert

Extroverts and introverts work well together. They’re able to step in to help each other when the going gets tough. In the same way, introverts and extroverts travel well together. It’s easier to divide tasks because while an introvert might prefer to do research on a destination, an extrovert might be more keen to volunteer for face-to-face interactions. These kind of symbiotic relationships make traveling easier for all.

 

Apply now to boost your career with an international internship program.

 

Photo 1. by The Intern Group

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.

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